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Israel Takes House District 50

Dems hold on to Strama's seat in special run off

By Richard Whittaker, 10:42PM, Tue. Jan. 28

Celia Israel, the newest member of the Texas House of Representatives
Celia Israel, the newest member of the Texas House of Representatives
Photo by John Anderson

It may have taken a while – longer than they thought or hoped – but the Democrats have held on to House District 50, with Celia Israel beating Republican Mike VanDeWalle by a three to two margin in this special election run off.

With all 39 precincts reporting, Israel had pulled in 59.42% of the 10,314 votes cast, compared to 40.58% for VanDeWalle.

This is a reversal from the first round. In November, Israel came second to the sole Republican in the race. However, with fellow Democrats Rico Reyes and Jade Chang Sheppard now out of the field, she was splitting fewer Dem votes and romped past VanDeWalle, with a clear lead starting in early voting and carrying on through the night.

The major news is that turnout in the run off actually hasn't lagged too far behind participation for the first round, when 15% of the district's 97,290 registered voters turned out. With 11 boxes left to report, this round had already beaten 10%. That's surprising, and not just because it was a low-interest election with only one item on the ballot: Early voting was truncated, and Travis County Elections Division was running fewer voting locations because of the inclement weather. However, that was partially offset by the decision to keep voting locations open later.

Of course, that still means that 90% of HD50 voters stayed home, so it's hardly time to break out the good china.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa welcomed Israel's elevation to the lower chamber, saying, "Celia represents the best of Texas – a fighter who is dedicated to improving public schools, growing small businesses and ensuring a high quality of life for her constituents. Texans are tired of Tea Party politics and tonight’s victory is the first battle of many to ensure that Texans and not special interests are priority number one in Austin."

Israel probably won't be fully dismantling her campaign quite yet. She will only be finishing out Mark Strama's unexpired term, meaning that she will have to run again in November. VanDeWalle has already filed in the Republican primary, and so both candidates are set to face off again mere months from now.

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